About a year ago, the way I see, listen, and even make chiptune changed completely thanks to a brilliant album filled with funky rhythms and bright harmonies in a way I’d never imagined possible. So, when I discovered the songs were made using a huge range of techniques involving FM Synthesis and decided to delve into it, a whole new world of possibilities opened up to me. I discovered new sounds and styles; nearly infinite possibilities to express oneself through a limited sound chip.
A few months later, and with a musical phrase stuck in my head after clicking a link posted by President Hoodie, I realized the contrasting and flexible nature of FM chipmusic. All the credit for this epiphany of mine goes to a single person, whose fresh way of making music really stuck with me: Karl Brueggemann. Today, I want to talk about the album that made me realize just how cool FM Synthesis could be. So let’s take a look at ‘High Flyer’ by Karl Brueggemann, released through Super Marcato Bros.
As soon as you hit the play button, a drum roll and a strong bass line introduce the track catching your attention immediately, making the chord hits – which exposes the main theme – more evident and enjoyable. When the main lead is put into the formula, the whole thing explodes into a burning madness of rhythm and delight, making your head and feet move along on their own. Clean transitions, solid melodies, and an impeccable harmonic background make this track an engaging starting point, but it also gives us a little sneak peek of what’s to come. This track, like the rest of the album, has that classic Sega FM flavor that you can cook up with a YM2612, but the composition stands and shines by itself, giving us a little taste of Brueggemann’s genius. The level of detail in every drum sequence is just stunning as well.
Right after an energetic, upbeat introduction to the album, this track gives us a little break to create some contrast. The first section introduces a peaceful mood that almost sounds like a resignation to an unavoidable end. But when the percussion shows up, its decisiveness takes the song to a stage of resolve, generating strong feelings. The textures that the hi-hat provides to the piece are just too powerful not to mention. There’s a part between 2:02 and 2:21 in which the hat is the only percussive sound, and that emphasizes the mood, as if it’s waiting for something. Then a short solo appears and we’re brought back to the beginning. I can’t help but think of a car drive to the sunset while I listen to ‘Drifting Beyond’, which reminds me of OutRun. This is seriously a quality jam.
‘Stay and Groove with Me’ is a reminder to slow down and appreciate the subtler things in life. Its calming groove would bring peace to even the most furious people in the comments section of a music production forum. There’s something relaxing about the way the muted guitar interacts with the synth, as if both of them were chilling to the rhythm of the bass. It’s like a quiet, natural conversation; no hidden intent, no rushing and no misunderstanding… just you and the melody. No matter what you’re doing, this track, as the title suggests, is an invitation. So, please, stay and groove with it. Whatever’s got you worried, it can wait three minutes and thirty-eight seconds.
When I first listened to the intro of ‘Danger Boys’, I thought it would be significantly different from what I’d already heard. But then the bass appeared and the funk started to flood the ambiance. A simple motif gives the track its tone, while all the subtle harmonies and melodies float quietly below the surface, jumping to our attention every so often. The end result is a complex, daring, and wild amalgam of sparring essences and sounds in constant contention with each other.
The relationship between tension and release that makes music possible can be difficult to understand at times. It’s right in the middle of this chaotic symbiosis where some musicians spend their lives looking for their aurea mediocritas. Sometimes, it can be tough to find stability while composing, but, as far as I can tell, Mr. Brueggemann has no problems with this. From the structure of each track to their order of appearance, everything is exactly where it needs to be.
Finally, we arrive at the album’s namesake composition, so hold onto your hats, because this is going to be intense! ‘High Flyer’ reminds me of some of the classics from the pre-funk era of music. Brueggemann takes all of his energy and spirit to build one of the funkiest tracks I’ve listened to in a long while. The bass groove is just aggressive enough, and is counteracted by the PSG’s lightness and overall accurate harmonies. Every chord accent, more subtly on one’s first listen, enhances the piece’s sense of cohesiveness, and the drums bring in all the necessary energy and support once again. The way Brueggemann manages to make the different melodies and instruments go through so many unique permutations and still have everything work together is truly inspiring. The world needs more people as devoted to their practice as Karl is.
This album is one of the most complete works I’ve ever listened to. It was hard for me to choose just five tracks to review, but trust me – every single composition has its own distinctive sparkle and spirit that will make you want to listen to them endlessly. As I stated earlier, everything is where it belongs. Every track – and as such, the album as a whole – has a really strong sense of balance that enhances the true nature of Brueggemann’s music, making the line between working with the sounds and working for the sounds clear. ‘High Flyer’ is a name-your-price release, so treat yourself, support Mr. Brueggemann, and pick up this magnificent piece of work!
See you next time!